New York State Health Department Issues Update on Seneca Lake State Park Gastrointestinal Outbreak

ALBANY, N.Y. -- State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, MD, MPH, DrPH, and State Parks Commissioner Bernadette Castro have issued an update concerning the gastrointestinal illness which has been linked to the spray park attraction at Seneca Lake State Park. The dates of onset of illness range from June to the present, and many people have since recovered. The state's investigation is ongoing.

The number of reported illnesses possibly linked to the park is now 2,202 cases in 24 counties, prompting the commissioner to again stress precautionary measures people should take to keep the illness from spreading further. The 2,202 cases have been reported by the following counties: Albany (1); Allegheny (6); Cayuga (123); Chemung (15); Delaware (7); Erie (5), Genesee (12); Jefferson (3); Livingston (59); Monroe (218); Niagara (2); Oneida (4); Onondaga (84); Ontario (714); Orleans (7); Rensselaer (6); Schuyler (10); Seneca (257); Steuben (7); Tioga (1); Tompkins (31); Wayne (504); Wyoming (2); and Yates (124).

The most common symptoms reported are diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, headache, and loss of appetite.

Tests conducted by the health department have confirmed the presence of cryptosporidium in two storage tanks that supply water to the popular water attraction. For precautionary reasons, the State Office of Parks has closed the spray park attraction for the remainder of the 2005 season. The state is also reinforcing precautions to help prevent the transmission of disease from recreational water sources such as spray park attractions, swimming pools or beaches.

Test results of water samples from the Seneca Lake State Park beach show no health concerns with the water quality and the beach will remain open to patrons.

The following precautions should be taken by the public to prevent further spread of illness from this outbreak. These precautions also apply to the general public, particularly in light of the upcoming Labor Day weekend.

For the general public:

-- To help prevent the spread of illness, individuals who are experiencing gastrointestinal illness should not swim while they are sick and for two weeks after symptoms subside.

-- People should take action to minimize the chances of acquiring and spreading gastrointestinal illnesses, including thoroughly washing hands after using the toilet, changing diapers or coming in contact with fecal material in any way. Also, swimmers should avoid swallowing water wherever they are swimming, but especially in lakes, ponds or rivers.

-- Healthcare staff and food workers who are experiencing gastrointestinal illness should notify their employer. They should not have patient contact or work in food service until they have recovered and been cleared for return by their employer or the local health department.

-- Children and staff who work in child day care centers who have stomach/intestinal illness should refrain from attending day care. Day care centers should consult with their local health department for recommendations on the timing for return to the day care setting. Children should not be transferred to another day care center.

For patrons at spray park attractions, swimming pools and bathing beaches:

-- Patrons should always practice good hygiene. It is important to shower before using spray features and always wash hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Germs on one's body may get into the water.

-- Patrons should never drink the water used in spray park attractions and should avoid getting water in their mouths to prevent potential illness. Water at most spray parks is recycled and should not be consumed.

-- Patrons must never use spray park features, swimming pools or beaches when they have diarrhea. This is especially important for infants and toddlers in diapers. This may spread germs in the water and make other people sick.

-- Patrons with children should take them for bathroom breaks and/or check their diapers often. Children's diapers should be changed in a bathroom and not near the spray pad, pool or beach area to prevent the spread of germs and illness.

-- Persons who visited the Seneca Lake State Park or family members and/or close contacts of ill individuals who visited the park since late July and are experiencing gastrointestinal illness should contact their medical provider and their local health department.

Source: New York State Department of Health

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